Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1

  • by Mark Twain
  • Narrated by Grover Gardner
  • 24 hrs and 50 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

“I’ve struck it!” Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. “And I will give it away - to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography.”
Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his “Final (and Right) Plan” for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion - to “talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment” - meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be “dead, and unaware, and indifferent” and that he was therefore free to speak his “whole frank mind”.
The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death. In celebration of this important milestone, here, for the first time, is Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography, in its entirety, exactly as he left it. This major literary event offers the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain’s authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave, as he intended.
Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and other editors of the Mark Twain Project.
Mark Twain (1835 - 1910) was born Samuel L. Clemens in the town of Florida, Missouri. One of the most popular and influential authors our nation has ever produced, his keen wit and incisive satire earned him praise from both critics and peers. He has been called not only the greatest humorist of his age but the father of American literature.

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What the Critics Say

“With the uncensored Twain finally here, we’re the furthest thing from indifferent.” (Time magazine)
“Twain’s memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America - half paradise, half swindle - emerges with indelible force.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Mark Twain, always so blithely ahead of his time, has just outdone himself: he’s brought us an autobiography from beyond the grave.” (Ron Powers, author of Mark Twain: A Life)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not what I was expecting...

As an English teacher, I like to get Audible books that are entertaining because I am reading, researching, and grading all the time during the school year. I have loved Twain all my life and have even gone to Hannibal to participate in workshops - which were awesome. When I heard the autobiography was being released, I was thrilled. When I started listening to all the acknowledgements, I thought, "How interesting to know who the people and institutions are who contributed to this great work." Then when it began to sound more like an autobiography of those who edited and sweated and argued and agreed over the many processes that go into the manuscript, I thought, "This is not about Twain but about those who put the book together. So it should be called the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CONTRIBUTORS TO TWAIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY." I cannot pick up a book or an audio book and not give it fair chance, though, so I trudged on. The first fifteen chapters or so are not what I believe Twain had envisioned for his autobiography. I believe that Twain Scholars would love this book and use bits and pieces in university level classes, but I think Twain wanted it to be published without all the credits to the additional contributors. I have finally reached parts that are uninterruped chapters of Twain, but then between the chapters there are always "discussions" or "commentaries" on what went into putting the book together. In a way, I feel tricked by the way this "autobiography" has been marketed because it is not PURE Twain autobiography. It is too "heavy" for continued interest. I am hoping it "lightens up" with the text Twain intended. I may have to put it away until summer but if I had known that it was going to be a compilation of compilations through the decades of those who contributed, I would not have gotten it and wish I had my credit back. I give it three stars because I know scholars would love it and the Twain sections are satiric with some serious sides of Twain.
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- Susan Holland

Part diary, part autobiography

Grover Gardner is one of the two or three best narrators of Twain, and he does an outstanding job on this (sometimes) difficult material. The difficulty isn't because of Twain's writing, or in this case speaking -- he dictated most of this material, and you can "hear" him sometimes backing up and correcting himself. Twain's writing is one of the wonders of the natural world, and he's the only writer who can make me laugh out loud on the subway.

The difficulty in this case is the background of the project and Twain's design for an autobiography. The audiobook is basically everything in the printed volume except the footnotes. It includes the extensive introduction (how the editors identified the order of the various typescripts), several hours of "false starts" (autobiographical material Twain published elsewhere before settling on this plan), and extensive captions for each section. Gardner's clear and resonant voice keeps everything in perspective, but there's a lot to digest. If you're a Twain fan, you'll be grateful. If you're not, this book wouldn't be your best introduction. It probably helps to have a good grasp of the essentials of Twain's life before going into this one.

It's chronological -- not according to Twain's life, but according to the order of dictation. Twain wanted to combine aspects of diary and autobiography into a single scheme, one that left him the ability to jump from one subject to another as the spirit moved him. And it moved him quite a bit. A given day's dictation could cover six or seven different topics, each with Twain's eye for the illuminating detail and the perfect self-deprecating turn of phrase.

For diehards like me, it's a feast, a cornucopia, an incredible act of generosity on the part of editors, publishers, and reader. But it does require careful listening.
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- Tad Davis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-26-2010
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.